During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act… George Orwell
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has blamed the House of Lords for derailing attempts to prosecute Baroness Uddin over her expenses claims.
A senior Labour peer was told today that she will not face charges for fraudulently claiming living allowances because the House of Lords rules on claiming expenses are so vague.
Baroness Uddin received Â£100,000 in “night subsistence” after designating an allegedly empty flat in Kent as her main home despite having a family home just four miles from Westminster.
No peer is likely to face charges for fraudulently claiming the allowance after a senior parliamentary official ruled that their “main house” might be a place they visit only once a month.
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Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that there was a “very real difficulty” in interpreting the definition of “only or main” residence for peers.
The comments are likely to lead to demands for a reform of the self-regulation of parliamentary expenses.
Peers whose “main homes” are outside the M25 are entitled to claim a daily rate of Â£174 to help them with accommodation in London while they are attending the House of Lords.
Lady Uddin and her family have lived in a three-storey home in a housing association complex in Wapping, East London, since the early 1990s. She brought up her five children in the house, is registered to vote at the address and on her personal website describes the East End as “my home for over 30 years”.
But since 2005 she has claimed almost Â£100,000 in allowances by using the address of a flat she owns in Maidstone, Kent. Neighbours claimed they never saw Lady Uddin and believed the flat was empty.
The peer told the House Lords’ expenses authorities that the Wapping home was only her “second address”. In the financial year to March 2008, she claimed Â£29,600 for overnight accommodation
Michael Pownall, Clerk of the Parliaments, said in November last year: “Ultimately it is up to members to designate an address as their main residence as they see fit.”
Last month Mr Pownall added that the Lords’ House Committee believed that a “main residence” might need to be visited by a peer only once a month while the House was sitting.
Mr Starmer indicated today that the ruling made it impossible to bring charges for fraudulently claiming the night subsistence allowance.